What is cleaner and safer production?
The transition to more sustainable industrial production requires multi-stakeholder efforts to engage, define and disseminate the business case for action, how to contribute to more conducive policy frameworks and the needed technical capacity support. UNEP works in partnership with multilateral organizations, national governments and institutions, experts and businesses to develop and promote the implementation of effective tools and methodologies that help implement:
- Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production - the continuous application of preventive environmental strategies to products, processes, and services to increase efficiency and minimize risks to humans and the environment; and
- Safer Production - which promotes improved practices at industrial site and community levels to ensure both the safety of people in and around the facilities that manufacture, store, handle or use hazardous substances, as well as the prevention of releases of these substances into the environment.
The increasing shift of the manufacturing sector to developing economies - where there is more limited policy regulation and/or enforcement - raises risks of higher resource depletion, environmental pollution, and an increased number of accidents involving releases of hazardous substances into the environment.
Through life cycle thinking, applied along product/service value chains, improving resource recovery and recycling, adopting closed-cycle manufacturing and extending the lifespan of manufactured goods can help to decouple growth from its environmental impact. For radical, more transformative decoupling, sustainability focused innovation – or eco-innovation - may be required.
Change will also need to address the issue of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – which form the backbone of economic, social and industrial development in many developing countries. In UNEP’s work with business and industry, it has been observed that SMEs have greater challenges to adopt more resource efficiency and cleaner production approaches in operations due to a lack of awareness and technical and financial capacities. SMEs dominate sectors such as textiles, dry cleaners, metal finishing, printing, food and beverage, and some electronics sub-sectors – which all have high environmental and social impacts (OECD, 2006).
 (UNEP 2012) The Business Case for the Green Economy, Sustainable Return on Investment